As a massage therapist, you may already be on the cutting edge of technology or even run a paperless practice — you have a practice management software suite that makes appointments, manages reminders and processes payments, and you take continuing education courses online whenever you can.

But if you’re not that technologically advanced?

“The hesitation for many is the belief that technology hinders their ability to connect with clients,” said Amaya Weddle, vice president of research and product marketing for Mindbody, which offers practice management software.

“In reality, the case is just the opposite. Technology allows you to connect more with clients. It allows massage therapists to focus on the best part of the job — the reason they got into this work. Tech takes care of the menial tasks.” 

Helpful as it could be, you may think the newest technology is too time-consuming or difficult to learn; however, by not using practice management technology to complement your efforts, you may be losing out on potential business — for example, from millennials who will only book online, or people who don’t carry cash. Not to mention the benefits, in this living-with-coronavirus world, of taking your continuing education online to avoid large gatherings.

“These are the times of change; we just have to adapt to it,” noted Parminder Saini, creator of The Tele Coach, an online video conferencing solution that also offers several practice management features.

Luckily, taking the plunge into becoming a paperless practice that uses the latest business technology doesn’t have to be intimidating or take hours to set up. Most practice-management, billing or CE software is either web-based or designed to run on any computer with an internet connection. Many are also designed to run on mobile phones and tablets; this is an especially important feature to look for, since for much of your day you are probably not in front of your computer.

User-friendliness is a top priority for most tech companies’ products these days, and it doesn’t take too long to get the hang of most software that can serve your practice’s number-one goal: taking the best care of your clients.

Manage Your Appointments

Many massage therapists, in addition to providing massage services, also have to act as receptionists, handling scheduling, cancelling and rescheduling appointments. (And what happens if you miss a phone call while you’re in a session? Many people won’t leave a voice mail or call back.)

Sending out appointment reminders, rescheduling canceled appointments and explaining your payment policies can take a significant amount of time. Practice management technology is a good way to get these tedious tasks off your plate so you can focus on your massage sessions.

Some software providers, including Mindbody, says Weddle, offer artificial-intelligence-powered technology that can be on the job 24/7 to take appointments and answer clients’ frequently asked questions, such as those about your practice’s COVID-19 protocols.

Because of coronavirus concerns, she noted, the more parts of clients’ appointments you can handle online and touch-free, the better.

“With online booking, virtual check-in (no more common waiting area), and contactless checkout, there are fewer points of contact,” Weddle said. “Massage businesses can even have clients take care of any forms or waivers before arriving, eliminating the need for a shared tablet or clipboard.”

In addition to electronic intake forms, you can also choose software that can handle your SOAP notes. This capability is included in some practice-management software, or you can purchase software specially designed for SOAP charting.

Software built to manage your whole business might also include functions such as tracking of retail sales, marketing templates, social media integration, gift card sales and redemption, and employee scheduling and management, as well as one very important function: payment processing.

Process Payments

Consumers today expect to be able to pay for everything with a credit or debit card. There’s a significant chance you could lose out on business if you only accept cash. And checks? The authors of a study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia showed a steady decline in paper check usage over the years; if that decline continues at its current pace, checks will die out altogether by 2026, according to Business Insider.

Electronic payment processing is also more critical now that consumers concerned about COVID-19 are looking for a touch-free payment experience. Weddle points to a survey conducted by Mindbody, in which 66% of respondents said contactless payment is an important factor in deciding whether they will return to a business after coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

Most payment processing software is simple to set up; Square, for example, provides a free card reader that plugs into your smartphone or tablet, along with a mobile app.

Each payment processing company structures its billing a bit differently; when you’re choosing a provider, an important thing to research is if the company charges per-transaction fees, a flat monthly fee, or some other pricing setup.

Get Your CE Done

While online continuing education may have a different feel than in-person workshops, it has several advantages — not the least of which is being able to get your CE hours completed without the COVID-19 risk that comes with gathering in large groups.

“If you are not embracing the technology that accompanies online courses, you are severely limiting your educational opportunities,” said Joyce Gauthier, LMT, a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved CE provider and founder of the Respect Massage initiative. “Getting comfortable with technology allows you access to cutting-edge massage techniques and business practices that may not be available to you as a live course.”

Because it may be impossible to conduct live workshops due to coronavirus concerns, many CE providers have created brand-new online content, Gauthier said, so your choices are more varied than ever.

“Take a look at what is out there. The offerings in the online massage CE world have completely transformed since COVID,” she told MASSAGE Magazine. “There is an abundance of new CE providers offering their dream courses. These are providers that have been wanting to offer courses for years, but never had the time to put them together.

“There are some phenomenal offerings being released right now!”

If you haven’t tried online continuing education, now is the time. Here are three reasons why:

1. You Can Work at Your Own Pace

“Online courses can be completed as slowly or quickly as you would like,” said Gauthier. “Squeeze in a lesson between clients, while the kids are sleeping, or if a client no-shows. You don’t have to miss out on a precious weekend being stuck in a class.”

2. You Can Have Lifetime Access

“I can only speak for my own courses, but I am constantly updating them based on the feedback I get from my students,” Gauthier said. “If they are getting stuck, asking the same questions, or need more information, I can add it to the course. That way, once a student purchases a course, they can revisit it again and again and get a different experience every time. The courses grow with the students.”

3. You Can Have More One-on-One Interactions

“Students are able to contact me for one-on-one interaction at any time,” Gauthier noted. “Facebook groups accompany working with me so they can get the group feel, but still have individual attention from me for tailoring the curriculum to their individual practice.”

The Practice Management Solution for You

Searching for a practice management technology solution best suited for your practice’s needs can feel overwhelming, especially if you start by Googling it. The good news is that most tech companies will provide you with a free demonstration of their product, either by giving you a limited-time trial copy to explore or by walking you through the product’s features during a phone or online consultation.

But what if you already have, for example, appointment scheduling software and all you need is something to manage your online store? Depending on your needs and how fast your business is growing, it may make sense to switch your software solution to one that can handle all your needs within the same program.

“A seamless experience, enabled with technology, is going to be the new norm,” said Weddle. Your clients don’t want to have to download a new app just to virtually check in, for example. You want a frictionless experience.”

When you’re looking at tech solutions, think, too, Saini says, about how your clients will respond to the technology you plan to adopt.

“It should be easy to use — not only for you, but your customers also.”

About the Author

Allison M. Payne

Allison M. Payne is MASSAGE Magazine’s associate editor. Her recent articles include “MTs Ask: What Is Asymptomatic Transmission of Coronavirus and What Does It Mean for My Practice?” and “Make the Right Match: Top 7 Topicals for 7 Types of Clients.”